Stop Rehearsing Unhappiness

Do you sometimes feel so overwhelmed with the day ahead that you unwittingly compound matters with the inner voice of negativity?

A few weeks ago I saw a client that I had worked with some years ago. Sophie came back to see me for a few follow-up sessions. She’d been feeling depressed and to make matters worse her once chronic back pain had returned with a vengeance.

Sophie quickly revealed that nothing she’d been doing was helping. She had consulted with an orthopedist who said that he did not detect anything of concern and wondered if her pain issues might be stress-related. Must say I was amazed that an orthopedist tuned into this distinct possibility.

As we continued to talk I discovered that Sophie also felt overwhelmed in her job as a corporate attorney, her mother was ailing and she and her husband had begun to ramp up their bickering. Sophie was miserable!

Do you ever have those days, which can stretch into weeks, when it feels like just everything sucks and it’s not going to get better anytime soon?

I was curious and then asked Sophie how she started out her day? What were her first words to herself?

She told me that she awoke with immediate thoughts of how crappy the day was going to be. She had to drag herself out of bed and into the bathroom. There she would greet her face in the mirror observing how old and fat she’d become. Sophie had become her own cruelest enemy.

This is where I knew we needed to begin. We had to create some morning rituals that would help her to stop rehearsing and reinforcing her unhappiness and pain. We needed to retrain her brain.

Here’s how I advised Sophie: Upon awakening before doing anything else—bathroom break aside—practice belly breathing either sitting up or lying down for about 3 minutes.

The belly breathing induces a state of relaxation–which is when the mind is most receptive to suggestions–positive or negative.

Then I wanted Sophie to repeat a simple, positive statement about the way her day would play. Whatever she said had to be within the realm of possibility and hold a modicum of optimism.

She couldn’t think of anything–so we talked further and eventually settled on, “I’m going to find some beauty and joy in this day.” This would come after the breathing and become her morning routine.

I recommended further that when she went into a dark place to gently remind herself to replace negative thoughts and even her experience of pain with this phrase, “I’m going to find some beauty and joy in this day.”

I also advised Sophie to build into her schedule a walk, preferably outside, for the fresh air and movement which would be healing for both her mind and body.

Yesterday I spoke to Sophie who without her awareness inspired me to write this email. She felt better than she had in some time. Although she had a ways to go—she felt more hopeful about her life as it was–without wishing and needing everything to be different. In addition, her pain felt much more manageable. She was beginning to once again notice and experience what was good in her life–she could feel its sweetness.

What do you do when days start to feel bleak? I’d love to hear what strategies or ideas you have for elevating your day-to-day happiness factor.

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